Money alone can’t amend what Covid took away from these orphans

Insight Online News

By Amita Verma

Lucknow, June 6 : Two-and-a-half-year-old Ananya Yadav stares blankly at visitors. She cannot fathom the sudden influx of strangers in the house, mostly media persons, who seem to be streaming in.

Ananya does not answer questions and when anyone calls out her father’s name, Satya Prakash, she turns around looking for him.

She does not accept toffees — once her favourite — and refuses to eat her meals.

At night, she cries uncontrollably as she snuggles up to her mother.

Ananya is one of the many children who have lost one or both their parents and are now facing severe mental trauma.

These children-known as Covid orphans — have no help forthcoming from either their family members or the government or NGOs.

In several cases, relatives have refused to take their responsibility and it is only the grandparents — if any left alive by the Covid — who are looking after the children.

S.K. Tiwari, a child psychologist, said: “These children, who are facing loss of one or both parents, are facing intense emotional trauma, insecurity and abandonment.

“The worst is that they cannot even express themselves. Their relatives, who have adopted them for the time being, are unable to take care of the child’s emotional needs and the government is only concerned about giving them stipend and education.

“More than all this, these children need emotional support at the moment.”

P.K. Pandey, a lawyer in Sultanpur, related the case of his tenant’s family.

“My tenant and his wife succumbed to Covid within a week, leaving behind two daughters. Their relatives did not even come to perform their last rites because of the Covid stigma. We got their cremation done but their two daughters, aged 11 and 9, are left alone.

“At present I am taking care of them. They are unusually quiet — do not talk and quietly eat whatever is given to them. I do not know how to handle them though my wife does try to talk to them,” he said.

The lawyer said that even after being informed, none of their family members had come forward to take the responsibility of the girls.

Both the girls have withdrawn completely into their shell and spend hours in their room, staring into the wall.

Their school teacher, Anamika, visited them after learning of the death of their parents.

“The girls did not even talk to me. It seems that they are in a state of shock. Earlier, they were rather naughty and kept chatting in class,” she said.

Tiwari said that it was apparent that the girls were in deep trauma and needed regular counselling to get back to normal.

Another such case is from Jhansi where, Sunny, Sandhya and Sonia — aged between 12 and 7 years — have lost their father Shekhar to Covid and then their mother died, three days later, due to heart attack.

The children are living with their widowed grandmother who has no source of income. She has started sweeping and washing utensils in other people’s houses to earn enough to feed the children.

Sandhya wanted to be a police officer when she grows up but says that she does not know whether she will be able to continue with her studies. “Paise nahin hai,” she says tearfully.

Sunny and Sonia are younger and do not, perhaps, realize the importance of money. However, they keep asking their grandmother when their parents will return.

The three do not move out of their house to play or mingle with their friends.

R.K. Saxena, another psychiatrist, said that efforts should be made to provide immediate counselling to Covid orphans before their mental health issues settle into their personality.

“In children, it is difficult to see whether they are suffering from mental illness but efforts should be started at the earliest to provide them counselling so that they overcome the trauma and insecurity caused by the loss of their parents,” he said.

The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has, so far identified 2,309 Covid orphans in the state. Of these children, 287 have lost both their parents.

The government has approved the ‘Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Child Service Scheme’ for the provision of maintenance and education of these children.


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